If you have ever had any type of surgical procedure, chances are that you underwent some sort of anesthesia to help you not feel any pain during the process. There are several different levels of anesthesia, all based on what type of surgery is happening. This is now an important part of medicine, and many people are thankful that numbing or being put to sleep is an option for surgery.
Let’s look at how far anesthesia has come. First, there is some evidence that anesthetics such as mandrake and opium were used as early as 70 A.D by a Roman physician named Pedanius Dioscorides. The ancient Chinese version of numbing a person for surgery included the use of cold or acupuncture to deaden the nerves. Also, alcohol has long been recognized for its ability to make a person senseless. These are even the people that were lucky enough to receive anesthetics-people in the past have had to just bite down on pieces of wood or leather to keep them from shattering their teeth during a surgical procedure.
It is easy to see that anesthesia has come a long way, and this is something that we are all thankful for. Now, we have doctors whose only focus is to properly mediate the anesthesia for a person who must have surgery. Anesthesia works by giving you amnesia so that you do not remember how the process went, or it can knock you out entirely. Doctors also rely on anesthetics to reduce a person’s anxiety about a procedure or even paralyze the muscles around the area so that they have a controlled surgical site.
There are several types of anesthesia that doctors can used based on the intensity of the surgery. First, twilight anesthesia or conscious sedation involves keeping a patient fully awake and responsive, yet it makes you feel sleepy and relaxed. You probably won’t remember too much about the process later. Next, local anesthesia is much like conscious sedation except you do not feel sleepy.
Regional anesthetics work by numbing a wider region of the body. While twilight procedures and local anesthesia tends to be for small areas like the wisdom teeth or a patch of skin that needs a couple stitches, regional anesthesia are nerve blocks that can deaden your whole leg, arm, etc. This is especially good for procedures that require manipulation of an entire limb, rather than just a small area.
Lastly, general anesthesia makes you completely unconscious and immobilized. We don’t know exactly how general anesthetics work, but it’s a good thing that they do. This process is best for long, complicated surgeries. Because it does have somewhat of an unknown, anesthesiologists should be careful about meeting with patients to help determine how much anesthetics they need.